Caring for your Fresh Christmas Tree
by Rob Sproule
The rich, evergreen scent of live Christmas trees is a sure sign that Christmas is just around the corner. Although many have opted for artificial trees, fresh trees are still a cherished holiday tradition for countless families.
The tradition of bringing evergreens into the home during the Winter Solstice is far older than Christmas. Druids in England believed that evergreen plants were infused with enduring life magic, by which they remained vibrant throughout the bleakest months. Bringing boughs inside spread their magic throughout the home.
Today, people still bring evergreens into their home and we still enjoy the vibrancy that they exude during the shortest days of the year. Having a fresh tree isn’t difficult as long as you follow a few easy tips.
Bringing your Tree Home
Depending on your family traditions, there are many ways to bring a tree home. If you buy one from a garden center, store, or tree lot, there are a few things to remember.
While choosing, keep the size and proportion of your indoor space in mind. If you squeeze a large tree into a small room with low ceilings, it will trick the eye into thinking confines are more cramped than they actually are. If you have cavernous vaulted ceilings, a small tree is liable to get lost and make your living room look like a cathedral.
Before buying, grab your choice tree by the main stem and give it a good shake. Don’t be shy about it; you’re shaking to see how much it sheds. A few needles is normal, but if it rains needles, walk on.
Think of your tree like a cut flower. Like a long-stemmed rose, the bottom of the stem scabs over quickly out of water, but should stay open if kept submerged.
The tree will need an inch or two cut cleanly off the bottom before you take it home. A good vendor will do this for you, which is helpful because it can be awkward and messy. After cutting, it needs to go into water within a few hours; the sooner the better.
Caring for your Tree
Like a long stemmed rose, your tree will thrive as long as it has ample water. It will be thirsty at first; expect it to drink up to 4 liters of water per day for the first few days.
Once established, your tree will probably drink about a liter of water per 2.5 cm (an inch) of trunk diameter per day. You’ll save yourself some headaches and invest in a stand with a large reservoir.
Your tree’s needles will stay fresh and it will smell great the more water it takes up. Dry trees are unappealing at best and a fire hazard at worst, so if it stops taking up water you may need to cut another inch off the base.
Know what kind of tree stand you have before heading to the store. Angled cuts on the base will enable your tree to take up more water, but if your stand requires that the tree be stood on the base make sure to ask for a straight cut.
Give your new tree a long drink of hot tap water to start. This will thaw any sap that froze while the tree was outside. If you want to use a tree bag underneath to catch any fallen needles and to make New Years’ take down easier, tuck it under and around the tree stand, under your tree skirt.